Edible Pharmacy…Licorice

I was recently in Savannah, Georgia speaking at the Canadian Health and Wellness Innovations Conference when I happened upon a little French cafe called Papillote. Upon finishing my lovely lunch, I couldn’t resist picking up these beautifully tied licorice roots.

A sweet and spicy delight, licorice is grown throughout Asia and the Mediterranean. Licorice has been traditionally used to soothe sore throats, heartburn, stomach ulcers and ease respiratory infection by calming inflammation and helping to expel mucus. It is thought to have systemic anti-inflammatory and potential anti-cancer effects; it may also help improve response to certain chemo-therapeutic agents although human research has yet to demonstrate this effect. It contains natural plant sterols, thought to help lower blood cholesterol and contains an isoflavone component, which is a natural phyto-estrogen.

As I have a particular interest in Ayurveda, the ancient Indian system of medicine, I was interested to note that licorice is considered particularly balancing for us erratic Vata types. It is thought to calm the mind and bring a sense of peace. One of the main active components of licorice is called glycyrrhizin; many supplemental forms of licorice are de-glycyrrhized as this component can lead to water retention and high blood pressure with long term use. However, in its whole food form, a warming cup of licorice root tea is a safe and soothing balm come cold and flu season.

Licorice Root Tea
This is so delightfully simple…when you have a sore throat or an upset tummy, curl up and enjoy!

Fresh licorice root
Water
Honey, if desired

To prepare, bring 2 cups of fresh water to the boil. Slice a piece of licorice root on the diagonal and add a few slices to the boiling water. Let boil for 2-3 minutes and then turn off the heat and let steep for 5 minutes more. Sweeten with raw honey, for extra throat soothing, if desired.

Common Sense Precautions: Herbal medicines are still medicine and not without interactions and side effects. Licorice, when used in high doses long term, can cause high blood pressure and lead to potassium loss. It also interacts with many pharmaceutical medications, including steroid medications such as prednisone. It is also not recommended in pregnancy as it has been linked to pre-term birth. If you want to use licorice regularly as part of a self-care regimen, please discuss with your physician to make sure it is right for you.

For more information, visit:
http://nccam.nih.gov/health/licoriceroot/
http://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/herb/licorice
Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database – Membership Required
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/881.html 

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